How much has West Hollywood increased spending on special events?
This report updates our earlier analyses of special events spending in West Hollywood.
Special events costs
We can split special events costs into at least three pieces. The first is money to pay for the events themselves. For example, the City pays a company to produce the Halloween Carnaval. The event budgets for all special events total $1.5 million in FY2019, the fiscal year that starts in July 2018 and runs through June 2019.
The second piece consists of event-related public safety costs. This piece is a bit larger, budgeted at $1.8 million for FY2019. The two biggest events — Halloween and the Pride parade/festival — account for 99% of these costs.
The third piece is the value of the time devoted to special events by City staff members. We’re not sure how big this piece is. The City’s current list of budgeted special events doesn’t include the information. We do have a City estimate from 2011: about $700,000. If that number grew at the same rate as other special events costs, it would be $1.1 million today. It may seem like a high estimate, but the Event & Film Services Division has a $1.5 million payroll (including benefits) and that isn’t the only division working on special events.
If we add the three pieces together, the overall cost of special events probably exceeds $4 million a year. For the rest of this report, we’ll focus on the first two pieces — event budgets and public safety — because we have current data for them. The City has budgeted $3.3 million for them in FY2019.
Growth in the special events budget
The special events budget almost doubled in the last three years. It went from $1.7 million in FY2016 to $3.3 million in FY2019. That’s the cost of public safety and the events themselves, but not staff time.
The jump isn’t quite as large if we look back to 2011. The budget grew 65%, from $2 million in 2011 to $3.3 million in FY2019. The 2011 total included four high-dollar events that aren’t in FY2019 budget: the AIDS walk, the book fair, the library dedication, and the Sunset Strip music festival. Together, they were budgeted at over $400,000. Their absence from the FY2019 budget partially offsets growth in other special events costs.
The two biggest events by far are Halloween and the Pride parade/festival. Halloween is budgeted at $1.7 million and Pride at over $900,000. Halloween takes up over half of the special events budget. Pride uses more than a quarter. Together, they represent 80% of the special events budget.
Six other events have budgets above $25,000. The amounts are roughly $94,000 for the Russian Cultural Festival, $65,000 for the Women’s Leadership Conference, $40,000 for both One City One Pride (a series of 30 different events) and the Pacific Standard Time exhibition, $36,000 for the WeHo Sports Festival, and about $29,000 for National Night Out gatherings across the city.
Budget increases for the biggest events
The Halloween budget doubled from about $850,000 in 2011 to $1.7 million in FY2019. The three-year increase was 70%.
The Pride parade/festival budget more than tripled since 2011. It went from roughly $250,000 to over $900,000, a 260% increase. The three-year budget increase was 160%.
One part of the increases for both events was the introduction of City-funded onsite emergency medical services in tents. Those services are currently budgeted at almost $275,000.
Cost per attendee
Three events have an estimated cost per attendee of $5 or less, thanks to economies of scale. They are Halloween (up to 500,000 people at $3 each), the Pacific Standard Time exhibition (10,000 people at $4 each), and the Pride parade/festival (up to 200,000 people at $5 each). Other events below $10 a person include One City One Pride, WeHo Reads, Transgender Awareness Month, theater in the parks, movies in the park, the Roe v Wade anniversary, and the Kid’s Fair.
Six special events are expected to cost at least $50 per attendee. They aren’t able to spread the costs over as many attendees. They are the Women’s Leadership Conference (350 attendees at $186 each), the Cannabis Education Forum (100 people at $75 each), the WeHo Sports Festival (650 people at $55 each), the Senior Valentine’s Dance (150 people at $53 each), and both the Public Safety Awards and the Next Gen events ($50 per attendee).
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